published Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Representative Martin Scott questions fairness of Republican legislative maps

by Andy Johns
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One Northwest Georgia lawmaker says he's not sure the legislative maps his fellow Republicans approved last month were fair to Democrats.

"I just was not convinced of the fairness of the maps we voted for," said Rep. Martin Scott, R-Rossville. "I thought more could be done to ensure the other side felt like they had fair access to mapmaking abilities and lawyers that we had."

Scott was one of two Republicans to vote against the House legislative map, which was criticized widely by Democrats who said they weren't given a fair chance to develop their own map until the last minute.

Scott had not returned messages asking about the mapmaking process during or after the session, but he returned one left last week.

The other Republican to vote against the map was Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, who was affected directly by the new lines, which lump his hometown and base into a district with another incumbent.

Scott said, however, his vote had nothing to do with the lines of his district.

"Sometimes I just feel like taking up for the underdog," he said.

Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, called the vote "a pleasant surprise" but not out of character for Scott.

"Martin is known for voting his conscience," she said.

In a phone interview Friday, she reiterated her stance that the Republican-drawn map breaks up communities of interest and tries to eliminate white Democrats from the Legislature. Democrats voted solidly against the map.

"These maps went beyond simply maximizing the Republican advantage," she said.

When contacted Friday, Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said it was the first time he had heard about Scott's concerns. He called the lawmaker "flat wrong."

"I have to disagree very strongly with his statements," Ralston said. "This was the most fair, open redistricting process the state Georgia has ever seen."

He said the reapportionment committee held 12 public hearings from Dalton to Valdosta to get public input, and the redistricting office was made available to the minority party.

Scott called Ralston a "truly fair man" and said his vote was not meant to criticize people, but rather the process and the result.

John Deffenbaugh, Republican Party chairman for Dade County, said Scott has voted against the party before and called him "generally a person out on his own." But, he said, dissent and differing opinion within the party are a good thing, and he lauded Scott for sticking to his beliefs.

"He's willing to vote his convictions, and for that I praise him," Deffenbaugh said.

Tom McMahan, chairman of the Democratic Party in Dade County, said many of Scott's positions have conflicted with his party's stance on issues, but called Scott's vote against the new map a "noble thing to do."

At first the vote is a little surprising, McMahan said, until you consider Scott's decision not to run for re-election.

"Once you decide to leave, you don't have to worry about the pressure the party's going to put on you," McMahan said.

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about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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